Tuesday, December 30, 2008

When “Dad” Moved Out

Some people are lucky enough to grow up with a full set of parents. Some of us happen to be double blessed, and find another set of adoptive parents along the way of life. Like I found a second “dad”. Almost. Let me explain.

My former boss and I met over eight years ago when he gave me my first job at The Paper, as a sales assistant. Before the interview and until I got my job, he would call me at odd times, and the interviews were a bit out of the ordinary. He was an original, for sure, even before knowing me that well. There was a familiarity there that I didn’t quite grasp, but it became evident over time. We both have felt like “family” from the beginning, in a way. We both shared an honesty and openness that I have yet to find in most people.

After the first six months on my first job, he learned pretty fast that I learn faster than most, and I get bored easily. So, just like my real dad who threw me and my sister in a slew of extra-school activities to keep us busy and out of trouble, my boss had a mission to find me “stuff to do” so I won’t get bored, or God forbid leave! He constantly gave me one or two or several channels for my learning and my curiosity to go to. I am sure he was doing most of this for the benefit of the company as well, as I was (and still am) very cheap labor, and I would never say “no” to any task!

But pushed me he did. He drove me into marketing, he sent me to be a “leveraging conflict” trainer, he dragged me kicking and screaming into the IT world, and into the Project Management one, and he dropped me like a bag of potatoes into the United Way Campaign, to be not just a team member, but the chair. One thing he never convinced me to do was sales. Just like dad never sold me on the “medical school” idea, either.

Every time he did this, I was just like a kid: “No! No way I’ll do this!”. And he was just like my dad: “No way. You’ll do it. Now! Faster! Stop whining and get it DONE!”. Just like I do with my real dad, I hated him for pushing me, I ground the teeth and made faces behind his back, I lost sleep over how I am going to disappoint him, and I did it anyway to the best of my abilities. In the end, I thanked him when I realized he saw in me what I could not, and he made me a success by pushing me and ignoring my fight-backs.

The older I get, the more I don’t mind hearing the “I told you so”’s, either … And I am so grateful he’s dragged me through this winding career that I’ve had for eight years now.

Just like I would rather be caught killing puppies than upset or disappoint my dad, I did what my boss wanted me to because I would have been mortified if I ever disappointed him! I went to bed happy, and I thought I looked better in the mirror every time I’d do something and I’d get a “You’re the best!” from him!

Just like I seldom tell my dad that he’s one of my best friends, and I love him, I never told my boss these. But somehow I know he knows it. I feel like he’s helped me grow old and up in these 8 years. You’ve learned above what I have been through, professionally, thanks to him: from the sales assistant of a 3 sales people team in the Online Department to Jack-of-all-trades-known-to-all-in-the-company in IT, it’s been a long, painful, and also rewarding journey.

But our closeness and his caring and paternal interest in me has not stopped at the professional level, and now, that he’s retired, I am going to miss him more because he’s been my personal “double dad”, too: he’s helped me grow up and old, and gray through my separation and divorce, through home selling and home buying, through deaths, and births of my loved ones, through car sales, and car rentals, through the good years of dating and the hell years of dating; he’s listened to more of my blabbing about the un-necessary-ness of men, and about my frustration with my family, my friends, my co-workers, and life in general than my own mother has!

I’ve asked his opinion on everything, from where I should buy my plane tickets to Europe, to how far in advance I should buy ham for Christmas, or where you can get really good discounts on wine. Just like I do with dad for the ‘Romanian side’ of my life, I have learned to check with my boss before I make any major decisions here, in The States.

He’s always given me his best answer and his honest opinion. I knew exactly how he felt about my boyfriends, and my family, about my cats, and about the way I clean my house before I go on vacation. We disagreed on things, just like parents and kids do: anything from “don’t date that loser”, as I am stubbornly holding on to a failed relationship, to “God is a Woman”, as he stubbornly tells me over and over. I hated some of his decisions and he knew it, I hated him for not liking some of my personal choices, too. But in the end, what was great between us prevailed – the honesty and truthfulness of our bond - and that was what kept me going back! I knew he cared enough to give me a real answer, not some bogus “make me feel better” piece of BS just to get rid of me. And with this trust, the bonding grew! One can only be so lucky to find in their jobs what I found in this one person.

I called them “life questions”, as I was closing the door of his office for our “private chats”: “Hey, you know a good mechanic?” – he was replying: “You got a life question? Here’s the answer: get one!”- before I even opened my mouth.

And so, now, that he’s retired and no longer in this office, I feel like I have lost not only my boss, but a good and dear friend, and my surrogate “dad” as well. I am not planning to have any kids of my own, but this feels as close to an empty nest feeling as I’ll ever come, I guess. With “dad” moved out, I have the same feeling kids have when they’re dumped in the school bus for the first time, or to college, 5 states away. It’s this hallow, lonely feeling I am not sure how to replace or remedy! Where to turn to? How do I do this or that? I know, I need to stop the self pity and move on, and grow up – which I’ll do, slowly, I am sure. Just right now, it’s a separation and it hurts like all separations do!

Sure, he told me I can call him, but he deserves his rest and his fun! After 100 years of working (sorry, I had to do this!!), he deserves just to play golf! Plus, he never asked for any kids to take care of, so my uncertainty and tribulations should not be his burden! And I need to listen to him one last time, and just “get a life” of my own: just like birds eventually learn how to fly, I need to start using the wings he’s been mending for me for eight years – and continue to make him proud. I hope.

I can only hope I meant to him as a “surrogate daughter” as much as he meant to me as a “surrogate father”, and that time and distance will not sever what we worked so hard to build. Somehow, I just guess (or maybe it’s just hope?!) that he’ll still be there, watchful and critical, as ever, wagging his finger and telling me “ I told you so”, also encouraging and loving, even if our physical time is not there anymore. I cannot wait to continue our relationship, now, in a new setting, hopefully! I know I’ll do my part to keep it going.

And whatever you’ll tell me, “dad”, I still think God is not you, but He is, however, a Man! Thank you, again, for giving me a home, support and a good scolding when I needed it, and see you at lunch, soon! Prepare your preaching, ‘cause I am sure there will be something to preach about. Cannot wait!

1 comment:

MomlessMel said...

Alina, I LOVE your posts, and I know we've had a bunch of tentative plans that didn't work out, but let's definitely plan a Wednesday at Europa. Brent will taxi so, WOOO! :-) You're the best!!!